Ashton Hayes, Going Carbon Neutral
Most helpful resources
Six Degrees by Mark Lynas; Heat by George Monbiot; The Ecologist magazine; www.realclimate.org – written by real climate scientists, it has regular up to date information and comment.
Online networking tools
Women’s Environment Network, Ruralnet and Cafe
Ashton Hayes is a small rural village of one thousand people, in Cheshire. It is home to Going Carbon Neutral Ashton Hayes – which claims to be the first village setting out on a CO2 reduction journey in England. Formed in November 2006 by Garry Charnock, in response to a debate between Sir David King and Lord Oxburgh of Shell, the original committee of six decided to approach the parish council in order to set up under them as a sub group. They then went on to ‘launch’ their vision through a workshop at the local primary school. With a wide range of communication expertise and activities including posters, a website, links into every local community of interest and letters to every household, GCN Ashton Hayes managed to get over 250 people to its launch event. The group’s main aim is to reduce its local community’s carbon emissions as far as possible and offset whatever remains.
What are they doing?
Ashton Hayes, in its position as well communicated ‘first’ has had two roles – internal village carbon reduction activity and UK-external communication. The latter activity received a £31,000 grant from DEFRA and involved organising a nation-wide conference in April 2007 for other groups around Britain who wanted to benefit from the Ashton Hayes Experience, although none of this money could be used for salaries. The internal carbon reduction activity involved a community-wide household carbon survey with the help of some local students. Those who completed the survey demonstrated an average 14% reduction in their footprint in the first year. The village also hosts a lightbulb library within its Brownie group. With a steering group of 15 active volunteers, the group feels that about 50% of the village has engaged in some carbon reduction activity that they otherwise would not have, due to their efforts. However, because of the joint role, and the fact that all activity is carried out through a voluntary basis, action on climate change has tailed off within the wider village community, suggesting that without a continued and varied stream of action and / or communication, even the most seeming active of communities can risk stalling. The latest project centres away from behavioural change and into decentralised energy kit in the form of a £2million micro grid using a complement of wind, solar, anaerobic digestion energy streams.
Ashton Hayes Top Tip
Make sure you talk your project through with all the people in your community, ensure all community groups are involved, in order that everyone feels like they are doing something positive. Only when you have this level of engagement is it possible to look at bigger reduction projects.